During a CBS Evening News interview, Katie Couric did not challenge Sen. John McCain's suggestion that "five Nobel laureates and 300 economists" agree that his economic plan will allow him to balance the budget, despite an article, excerpted hours before on CBSNews.com, reporting that the statement the economists signed in support of McCain's economic plan said nothing about balancing the budget. The article further quoted one signatory saying, "He's not going to balance the budget. No one's going to balance the budget."
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During the July 9 broadcast of the CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric did not challenge Sen. John McCain's suggestion that "five Nobel laureates and 300 economists" who signed a statement supposedly in support of his economic agenda agree that the plan will allow him to balance the budget. Couric made no mention of a Politico article, excerpted on CBSNews.com, noting the statement itself said nothing about balancing the budget and quoting one signatory saying, "He's not going to balance the budget. No one's going to balance the budget." An excerpt of the article was posted on the CBSNews.com From The Road blog several hours before Couric's interview with McCain aired.
When Couric asked McCain for his reaction to "leading economists who say it's all but impossible to meet" his goal of balancing the budget by the end of his first term, McCain replied: "I am saying that there is five Nobel laureates and 300 economists who think my economic plan is a good one. I say that those that disagree, I respect their opinion, but growth and revenue increases is what will balance the budget." McCain was referring to a statement his campaign released on July 7 signed by more than 300 economists who "enthusiastically support John McCain's economic plan." The statement says of McCain's economic plan: "It is a comprehensive, pro-growth, reform agenda. The reform focuses on the real economic problems Americans face today and will face in the future. And it builds on the core economic principles that have made America great." The statement goes on to list specific aspects of McCain's plan, such as controlling government spending by vetoing earmarks and supporting free trade agreements, and states: "The above actions ... constitute a broad and powerful economic agenda."
But a July 9 article posted on Politico.com, which was excerpted in the Morning Road Map post on the From The Road blog -- both posted hours before Couric's interview -- reported that the McCain campaign "began collecting signatures from economists several months ago, with the intention of showing support for McCain's broad economic priorities, rather than the specific items in his Jobs for America proposal." Indeed, reporters Alexander Burns and Avi Zenilman wrote that "[i]n interviews with more than a dozen of the signatories, Politico found that, far from embracing McCain's economic plan, many were unfamiliar with -- or downright opposed to -- key details." The article noted that the McCain's Jobs for America plan includes proposals for balancing the budget by 2013 and a gas tax holiday that are not mentioned in the economists' statement. However, the McCain press release announcing the economists' statement said that it was "in support of John McCain's Jobs for America economic plan."
According to Burns and Zenilman's article:
Howard Beales, an economist at George Washington University, explained that he signed the letter as "an expression of support for [McCain], not necessarily each and every detail of his plan, which I may not have had time to study closely."
Beales said he thought McCain had "a good plan," in general, and that his policy priorities were better than Obama's. In signing the letter, however, he did not intend to give a blanket endorsement to McCain's full agenda.
Professor James Adams of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute declined to elaborate on his decision to sign the letter. "I'm not involved in the campaign," he said. "I simply read a statement and signed on."
Constantine Alexandrakis, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, expressed second thoughts about signing.
"I would describe myself as an Obama supporter," he explained. "Maybe I shouldn't have rushed into signing the letter."
Alexandrakis said he added his name in order to show his support for certain principles in McCain's plan -- such as free trade and a reduction in corporate tax rates. But there are other aspects of McCain's proposal, such as his pledge to make permanent the 2001 tax cuts, that Alexandrakis opposes.
Likewise, William Albrecht, professor emeritus at the University of Iowa, viewed the plan in general terms. "Overall, I thought [McCain's] economics was better than Obama's," he said.
While he favors McCain's overall outlook on the economy, Albrecht said he is not sure that he would agree with all the individual measures in the Arizona senator's economic platform. He sounded a particularly skeptical note when asked about McCain's pledge to balance the federal budget within four years.
"He's not going to balance the budget," Albrecht said. "Nobody's going to balance the budget."
From the July 9 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:
COURIC: Your advisers say they're -- you're promising to balance the budget by the end of your first term, Senator McCain. Are you personally making this commitment to the American people?
McCAIN: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And if we reduce spending, then we can do it. It has all got to do with spending and it all has to do with discipline, which is out of control.
COURIC: What's your reaction, though, Senator, to leading economists who say it's all but impossible to meet that goal, that you'd have to cut spending or raise taxes beyond what anyone could anticipate is possible. Is it really achievable?
McCAIN: I'm saying that there is five Nobel laureates and 300 economists who think my economic plan is a good one. I say that those that disagree, I respect their opinion, but growth and revenue increases is what will balance the budget.
COURIC: Some Republicans, meanwhile, have privately complained that your campaign organization is in disarray and critics say if you can't effectively run a campaign, how can you effectively run the country? What's your response to that?
McCAIN: My response is that I do town hall meetings all the time and, you know, not a single person at a town hall meeting says, "How's your campaign organization doing?" What they say is, "How you going to give my health care affordable? I'm worried about my job. I can't afford to drive my car anymore. How am I going, I mean -- keep my home loan -- stay in my home, and afford my mortgage?" That's what they're talking about, and that's what I'm talking about.
COURIC: Senator John McCain. Senator, thanks so much for talking with us.
McCAIN: Thank you, Katie.